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Lion Links: 5/25/23

Orlando City preps for another rivalry match, OCB visits Inter Miami II tonight, cupsets in the U.S. Open Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Good morning! I’ve had a pretty busy week, but it also hasn’t been too bad as I’m housesitting for some friends and they have pets. It took some time, but I’ve earned the cat’s trust. Before we get to today’s news, we want to thank Paul Lott and John Strickland for their support in our Buy Me a Coffee premium membership program. We look forward to bringing you lots of extras to maximize your TML experience. Now, let’s get to the links!

What to Watch For in Orlando’s Rivalry Match

The Lions will play their sixth and final match of a hectic May when they host Atlanta United on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. It will be the first match between the two rivals this year and both teams have been leaning on their European strikers in recent weeks. Ercan Kara has scored in three straight matches for Orlando, while Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis scored a brace for Atlanta last week and has eight goals to his name this season. As for Orlando’s other Designated Players, Martin Ojeda leads the Lions in goal contributions this season and Facundo Torres could make his 50th start across all competitions for Orlando on Saturday. It should be an exciting rivalry match at Exploria Stadium.

Orlando City B Takes On Inter Miami II Tonight

The Young Lions are on the road but not far from home as they take on Inter Miami II tonight at 7 p.m. and you’ll be able to watch on MLS Season Pass. These two teams last met on April 9 at Osceola County Stadium, with OCB winning 2-0, thanks to goals from Jack Lynn and Favian Loyola. Lynn also came off the bench to bag a brace in OCB’s comeback draw with Atlanta United 2 on May 19. Midfielder Cristian Medina and forward Moises Tablante were also key attackers in that result. Hopefully the Young Lions can bring the firepower again tonight and return to Orlando with bragging rights and all three points.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Birmingham Legion Win in U.S. Open Cup

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup dream lives on for the USL Championship’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Birmingham Legion after they both defeated their MLS opponents to reach the quarterfinals. The Riverhounds beat the Columbus Crew 1-0 at home, with former OCB forward Albert Dikwa scoring the game’s only goal. In Alabama, the Legion won 1-0 against Charlotte FC, which had to play a man down for most of the second half after Adilson Malanda was given his second yellow card in the 51st minute. They are the only teams outside of MLS left in the competition.

MLS’s Diversity Stands Out Among Pro Leagues

MLS features players from over 81 different countries, making it the most geographically diverse men’s professional league in North America. It’s the second straight year that MLS has players from over 80 countries and it is also the most globally represented league among the top men’s soccer leagues around the world. Other than the U.S. and Canada, Argentina has the most representatives in MLS, with 37 players. MLS also has the youngest player pool among the top five men’s pro leagues in North America, with an average age of 26 years and 129 days old.

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  • Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen was set to start for Canada in the Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship, but the day’s games were postponed due to weather.
  • Bongokuhle Hlongwane won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his late winner over the Portland Timbers. Orlando’s Rafael Santos finished third with 9.8% of the vote, beating out Miami’s Leonardo Campana.
  • OL Reign Head Coach Laura Harvey stated that American midfielder Rose Lavelle may not feature for the club before the Women’s World Cup this summer due to her knee injury.
  • The Chicago Fire signed Homegrown Player Mauricio Pineda to a contract extension that will keep him in Chicago through the 2026 season, with an option for 2027 as well.
  • CF Montreal reached the Canadian Championship final after beating Forge FC 2-0.
  • D.C. United defender Mohanad Jeahze had his suspension lifted by MLS and can resume team activities.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/10/23

Lions want consistency, Alejandro Granados earns short-term contract, Pride welcome Thorns, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Welcome to the weekend, Mane Landers. It’s a great Saturday to wake up because the Lions are back home tonight at 7:30 p.m. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing the team continue to build attacking momentum as the pieces have started to gel together. The pace of Ivan Angulo has been electric, and I’m hopeful Facundo Torres has finally turned the page he needed to this season. Aside from Orlando City today, we also have soccer in town on Sunday, with OCB taking on Cincinnati 2 and the Orlando Pride hosting the Portland Thorns. So, let’s dig right into it all in the links!

Orlando City’s Momentum and Consistency

Orlando City returns home tonight to take on the Colorado Rapids after a decisive 3-0 victory at Red Bull Arena. With the latest victory, the Lions are now unbeaten in their previous five league matches. Orlando City aims to keep up the consistency in its performances as the Lions gear up for the 13th-ranked team in the Western Conference, and the Rapids are desperate for points. 

“They’re gonna come in to try and leave the position that they’re in right now,” Lions goalkeeper Pedro Gallese said. “They’re going to try and come in and take points from us in our home. We know that they’re going to come in strong, but we have to do the same and we’ve got to continue the form that we’ve had during this run that we’re on right now.”

Alejandro Granados Earns First-Team Deal

Orlando City has called up the services of midfielder Alejandro Granados from Orlando City B on a short-term agreement and will be available for selection today as the Lions take on the Colorado Rapids. The 17-year-old has six appearances for Orlando City B this season in MLS NEXT Pro. On the global stage, Granados recently featured for Spain at the U-17 European Championship. He appeared five times in the tournament as La Roja reached the semifinals. He even scored a goal in the quarterfinal round against Ireland that also qualified the side for the U-17 World Cup later this year.

Orlando Pride Host Portland Thorns

The Pride are back in town following a midweek Challenge Cup postponement against NJ/NY Gotham FC due to measures taken to prioritize player health and safety in the face of terrible air quality as a result of the Canadian wildfires. Sunday’s match is set to begin at 7 p.m. against the Portland Thorns. It will be the Pride’s first home match in 22 days, however, the team won the last two matches played at Exploria Stadium. One thing to watch for in the match will be set pieces. Four of Orlando’s last six goals in regular season play have been scored from a set piece, with three being corners. For the Pride, it will be a chance to begin to shift the history between the two clubs, as the Thorns have won 13 of their 17 all-time meetings with Orlando, including the last three in a row by a combined score of 12-0.

Orlando City Academy Boasts Nine D-1 Athletes

The Young Lions of the Orlando City Development Academy have wrapped up their studies for the year and are on their way to penning the next chapter in their lives. Nine graduates have committed to Division 1 programs across the United States. Five of the graduates were products of the 2021 U-17 MLS NEXT Cup champion team. Another notable mention is Orlando City B forward Chase Vazquez, who came off the bench in this year’s preseason matchup against Stetson University to score a hat trick.

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That’s all I have for you today. Have a safe two days at Exploria Stadium. Remember to hydrate and look out for your friends. It is starting to feel a lot like summer out here. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/9/23

Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.

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How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids

The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.

Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home

After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.

USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search

With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.

“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”

The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.

Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final

Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.

The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.

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That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/8/23

Orlando Pride match postponed, Lionel Messi will join Inter Miami, West Ham wins Europa Conference League, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It’s Thursday, which is a little worse than Friday, but still much better than Monday. I hope this week has been treating you well and that you have some fun to look forward to over the next few days. All three of Orlando’s soccer teams are in action this weekend as well. Let’s jump into today’s links!

Orlando Pride NWSL Challenge Cup Match Postponed

Wednesday’s NWSL Challenge Cup match between the Orlando Pride and NJ/NY Gotham FC had to be postponed due to poor air quality conditions in the New York metropolitan area. Wildfires in Canada were the cause of the hazy conditions that were expected to worsen when the match was set to take place. That match has now been postponed until Aug. 9, which is during the NWSL’s break for the Women’s World Cup. The Pride will be back in action this Sunday for a difficult match against the league-leading Portland Thorns.

“Pride in Our City” Kicks Off This Weekend

Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are both playing at home this weekend in matches that will also celebrate the LGBTQ community and remember the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Players will wear jerseys with rainbow numbers, which is also available as a customization option when buying jerseys at The Den at Exploria Stadium and online. Both matches will feature national anthem and halftime performances by the Orlando Gay Chorus as well. Limited-time apparel, patches, and merchandise will be sold, with a portion of the proceeds going towards the Orlando City Foundation to support the LGBTQ community.

Lionel Messi Will Join Inter Miami

One of the greatest soccer players of all time is headed to MLS. Although not finalized yet, star forward Lionel Messi announced that he will join Inter Miami. There were many reported moving parts involved, including an option for part-ownership of the club, a cut of revenue from new MLS Season Pass subscribers, and a deal between Messi and Adidas. He joins a Miami side that sits last in the Eastern Conference and recently sacked Phil Neville. This does add an interesting layer to the reported talks between Miami and Tata Martino, who coached Messi during his time with Argentina and Barcelona.

It’s great to see MLS in a position to add one of the most sought-after free agents in the world, although I do wish he wasn’t playing for an Orlando rival. The Lions could face Messi for the first time when the two sides clash at Exploria Stadium on Sept. 24. Orlando updated the ticket information for that match as well, with priority access available starting today for new season ticket, group ticket, and match pack purchases. A limited number of single-game tickets will be made available as well, and season ticket members will receive pre-sale priority before the public.

West Ham Wins Europa Conference League

West Ham United lifted its first European trophy in 58 years by beating Fiorentina 2-1 in the Europa Conference League final in Prague. The two teams traded goals in the second half before Jarrod Bowen beat an offside trap to score the winner in the 90th minute. The win capped off a great tournament from the English club, which won 12 of its 13 games during the title-winning campaign. West Ham finished 14th in the English Premier League, but will play in the Europa League next season after this victory. Unfortunately, the match wasn’t without controversy, as Fiorentina captain Cristiano Biraghi was struck in the head by thrown objects that drew blood. Thankfully, he was able to get bandaged up to finish out the match.

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That’s all I have for you today. Make sure to hydrated out there as this summer heats up. Have a great Thursday!

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